Anger is one powerful human emotion. It is also a very normal human emotion that needs to be expressed in a healthy way. But there's a place and time for appropriate anger, and we all have to learn how to manage it before it escalates.
That takes emotional intelligence -- the ability to exercise self-awareness to understand the situation from multiple angles and self-control to see things through other filters before pulling the anger-trigger.
When anger comes knocking, and it will, we have to know how to deal with it appropriately. If mismanaged, it can take down company morale and sabotage your ability to lead and collaborate well.
Here are six habits of people that manage theirs remarkably well.
1. They put boundaries on people who make them angry.
Having healthy boundaries means you're assertive enough to confront and set limits on a particular person violating your physical or emotional boundaries. It's saying to yourself, "I'm not going to allow this person to push my buttons, take advantage of this situation, or disrespect my authority," and then following through on it.
2. They get to the bottom of why they're really angry.
Emotionally intelligent people realize the reason for their anger may run deeper than what they're experiencing on the surface. They probe, process, do a deep dive, and ask themselves, "What's really beneath my anger?" By stepping back and looking at root causes, you'll soon realize that your anger is really a reaction to whatever is disturbing you, usually something unresolved at the bottom of your pile -- feelings of anxiety, worry, fear of failure, etc. These are the primary emotions you need to deal with as you contemplate how to make payroll when cash isn't flowing. Anger is always the trigger and a secondary emotion. So what's really bugging you? Get honest with yourself after some processing. Then tell yourself with brutal honesty, "The real reason I'm angry is ... "
3. They respond, they don't react.
Chuck Swindoll once said, "The longer I live, the more convinced I become that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond to it." Emotional intelligent people have the advantage because they assess a situation, get perspective, listen without judgment, and hold back from reacting head on. It may mean making the decision to sit on a decision. By thinking over your situation rationally, without drama, you can arrive at other, more sane, conclusions. Here are three ways people with emotional intelligent respond when reaching the boiling point:
- They know when they're being triggered and will walk away and come back when they're in better space.
- They acknowledge their anger and proceed to talk to someone to get better perspective and understanding on the situation.
- They are self-aware enough to consider the potential consequences of having lost control of their emotions.
4. They take a six-second pause.
Why six seconds? The chemicals of emotion inside our brains and bodies usually last about six seconds. During a heated exchange, if we can pause for a short moment, the flood of chemicals being produced slows down. When you are frustrated or upset, before you say something harsh, this precious pause helps you to quickly assess the costs and benefits of that, and other, action. Applying this consequential thinking in the moment helps you to make more careful choices.
5. They are the first to reach out after an argument.
The tendency for so many of us is to let anger and resentment fester after an argument or misunderstanding, and then cut off the person from our lives until he or she reaches out to us with an apology. Sure, that's convenient. But it's also just plain dumb. A person with emotional intelligence doesn't let her ego have its way at the expense of losing a friend. She'll be the first to reach out to make amends, even if it means apologizing first. That humble and courageous act will do wonders for the relationship.
6. They shift to the positive.
Lets face it: After a heated exchange, anger doesn't just disappear at the snap of a finger. If steam is still rising from your head hours after an argument, make a conscious and intentional effort to shift to the positive. Here are two things you can do:
- Have a gratitude meditation. Take out a piece of paper and spend two minutes making a list of all the things you're grateful for in the last 24 hours. Positive psychologist Shaw Achor says if you do this simple exercise for 21 straight days, you'll be training your brain to scan for positives instead of negatives. This activity is the fastest way to teach optimism and it will significantly improve your optimism even six months later.
- Practice empathy. Choose to look at someone who has wronged you in another light; imagine what challenging circumstances that person may be facing that caused his or her own angry reaction. In empathy, you understand someone else's frustration, knowing in your mind that those emotions are every bit as real as your own. This uncanny ability to understand and share the feelings of another helps develop perspective and opens team members to helping one another.